A woman from Jackson, New Hampshire, is being accused of a hate crime for allegedly assaulting two people in an effort to remove them from her family's business because of their religion and perceived national origin.
Priscilla Protasowicki, 32, was indicted on two counts of simple assault following an incident at the Covered Bridge Riverview Lodge in April.
The New Hampshire Attorney General's office said the dispute began after a couple from Massachusetts requested a refund. Protasowicki denied the refund request citing the hotel's policy, and allegedly then used physical force to remove the couple, who are Muslim, from the hotel.
"There were comments made about the patrons' religion and national origin. And in particular that they shouldn't be there and aren't supposed to be there because of their religion," says Elizabeth Lahey, director of the N.H. Department of Justice Civil Rights Unit.
(Scroll down to read the full statement.)
According to Lahey, this is the first formal case initiated by the Civil Rights Unit since its creation last December.
"New Hampshire thinks of itself sort of immune from these kinds of things, and it's not," says Lahey.
In addition to the criminal proceeding, the Attorney General's office is pursuing charges under the state's Civil Rights Act.
When reached for comment, Protasowicki denied the state's version of events. She says she made no mention of the family's religion during the interaction, and didn't assault them.
"They're making a whole mountain out of a molehill," said Protasowicki. "They basically walked out, I escorted them out. I barely touched the guy, didn't touch the woman at all, and they want to put me in jail?"
The Covered Bridge Riverview Lodge describes itself online as a "warm and friendly inn." Protasowicki says the establishment has served customers from around the globe, including many people of Muslim faith.
She faces up to five years in prison, with each violation of the Civil Rights Act carrying a maximum $5,000 fine.
Protasowicki will be arraigned in Carroll County Superior Court on Aug. 22. A hearing on the alleged Civil Rights Act violations is set for Aug. 24.
(This article was updated Tuesday night with comments from Protasowicki and Attorney Lahey.)
Read the statement here: